OPPORTUNISM AND GREED TAKEN TOO FAR!!!
Nigerians woke this week to a letter by the former Governor of Zamfara State, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, dated 17th October 2019 and under the auspices of the Office of the Former Governor, Zamfara State. In the said letter, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar expressed utmost displeasure to what he claimed to be the stoppage of his so-called upkeep allowance which according to him sums to ten million naira (N10 million) monthly. The immediate past Governor of Zamfara State also bemoaned the denial of his pension which he claimed is equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office as State Governor.
It is pertinent to note that in his letter Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar referred to his claims as ‘privileges’ which cannot be truncated without any justifiable reason. How the tables turn! Talking about privileges, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar who is now occupying the office of the “former Governor of Zamfara State” seems to have forgotten how he scuttled the rights of Zamfara state workers who he adamantly refused to pay the last national minimum wage of N18,000. Instead, he chose to trample on our laws and illegally paid workers N7500 minimum wage instead. Even the N7500 he insisted on paying was never regular. Mr. Abubabar left office owing workers and pensioners in arrears.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar’s attitude to governance and workers welfare so pauperized the people of Zamfara State that a once haven of peace in Nigeria suddenly turned into an enclave of kidnap-for-ransom, armed robbery and sundry anti-social vices under his watch. Yet, throughout Mr. Yari’s eight years in office as State Governor, all his entitlements were paid, not once did he touch with a finger the misery he put Zamfara State workers through.
It was Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) that fought the review of national minimum wage from N18000 to N30000. The same Yari Abubakar surreptitiously railroaded the Zamfara State House of Assembly on March 23, 2019 to award himself a whooping sum of N10 million as “upkeep allowance”. What a travesty! What a misadventure in the corridors of power!! What a crass manifestation of opportunism, greed and wickedness!!!
From very conservative estimates, the N10 million being demanded by former Governor Yari Abubakar can pay the salaries and pension of nearly five hundred and sixty workers based on the previous N18000 national minimum wage. At best, this is a classic case of primitive looting and state capture! The soulless and shameless appeal of Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, to the incumbent Governor of Zamfara State for rescue from the same situation he had pitched workers for ninety-six months, and barely four months after leaving office confirms our perception of him as a mannequin of self-centeredness, and sadism. How a character such as Mr. Yari Abubakar became a Governor and actually lasted for eight years must be a compelling research topic.
Like they say, what goes around, comes around. Barely four months out of power, Governor Abdulaziz Abubakar is now on the other side of lamentation. We wish to assure him that his lamentation just started because nothing lasts forever. We look forward to see how Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar would sustain his outlandish taste of junketing around the globe in private jets, a luxury he believes should be one of the perks of office that comes with being a State Governor in Nigeria regardless of whether workers’ salaries and pension are paid.
We must commend the current members of the Zamfara State House Assembly for rescuing the people and workers of Zamfara state from the dead weight of one man whose past time is to live off the commonwealth. The words of the leader of the Zamfara State House of Assembly, Mr. Faruk Dosara, while imploring his colleagues to repeal the obnoxious law that Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar arranged for himself are very instructive – “…consider the complete repeal of the law which provides the jamboree payment for the former political leaders of the state at the detriment of the retired civil servants who have not been paid their entitlements over the years.”
We also wish to use this medium to describe as unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal the penchant by State Governors in connivance with supine state houses of assembly to award to themselves humungous and dubious ‘pension’ and ‘retirement’ benefits. Nigeria’s Pension Act stipulates that a worker (not a political office holder) is only entitled to pension benefits after a minimum of ten years of work.
Strengthening this position, a landmark judgement marked CA/A/810/2017 and delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim of the Court of Appeal described as highly immoral and unfounded the penchant for departing state governors to award to themselves huge pension and retirement benefits. In the words of the learned judge;
“the political appointees and elected public office holders who do not work as long and as hard as the career civil servants quickly get paid huge severance allowances upon leaving office in addition to the huge wealth they acquired while holding such offices and without having been subjected to any contributory pension schemes. It is not morally right to pay an elected public officer or political appointee pension and gratuity or severance allowance for holding such an office for three to eight years as the case may be. It cannot be justified. In the context of our present social realities it amounts to gross social injustice”
Justices Abubakar Datti Yahaya and Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson who were also members of the appeal panel concurred with the ruling.
On this note, we call on Mr. Yari Abubakar to immediately refund to the coffers of the Zamfara State Government the illegal pension and welfare benefits he had collected since leaving office. We also implore the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies to thoroughly investigate numerous petitions of financial impropriety levelled against the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State and diligently pursue the conviction of Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar for public interest and as a deterrence to others like him.
Finally, we urge members of the political class to learn a lesson or two from Mr. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar on the transience of political power. The only lasting reward of occupying political offices is not in how much wealth one is able steal and stash away but in the number of lives one is able to touch positively with pro-people policies, programmes and projects. One word should be enough for the wise!
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
President, Nigeria Labour Congress
27th November, 2019